Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Pretoria: As he told the National Assembly of the arrival of the COVID-19 storm, Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says the department has started implementing a “surge strategy” in anticipation of the peak.

Leading a debate on COVID-19, Mkhize said the storm has arrived and while government works tirelessly to ensure that the system is ready to manage the peak, South Africans have a duty to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they protect themselves and the lives of those around them.

“The Department of Health has developed and is implementing the Surge Strategy, in anticipation of the peak.

“This will ensure that the department increases capacity for COVID-19, while at the same time continuing to deliver other health services to the health care users. During this process, the department repurposed a total of 27 467 beds for COVID-19, which has increased to 40 309 beds as the provinces started to experience a sudden increase in the number of cases,” he said.

Mkhize said this as he announced 10 144 new cases, bringing the cumulative confirmed cases since the first case to 215 855.

He said that to date, 48% of the people who tested positive have recovered – bringing the total to 103 934.

Unfortunately, there have been 3 470 confirmed deaths and this, the Minister said, brings the case fatality ratio of 1.6%.

The surge

With the focus now shifting to Gauteng – a hotspot that has seen an increase on the infection rate over the past few days – Mkhize told members of Parliament that the country has now reached the surge.

“The storm that we have consistently warned South Africans about is now arriving. As a nation we have every reason to be united in this fight against COVID-19. We dare not be divided.

“As government, we have said, we cannot fight this COVID-19 enemy alone. We need all political parties, social partners and every citizen to come on board.

“As we continue this battle, we look beyond our differences and ensure that wherever we are, we and those around us, change our behaviour and observe all measures announced to contain the spread of this virus,” he said.

Mkhize said that government has used a differentiated approach in our response through a classification of districts as areas of ‘vigilance’ and ‘hotspots’.

He said that in all areas, the focus continues to be on prevention of new infections, containment, mitigation and recovery.

He said the overarching objective was to strengthen the national and provincial mechanisms for timely detection, management and containment of the spread of COVID-19 with nine overarching strategic priorities or pillars namely:

  • Providing effective governance and leadership.
  • Strengthening surveillance and strategic information.

“Augmenting health system readiness by assessing health system readiness against the epidemiological curve, identify gaps and planning to ensure health services availability according to need – focusing on the health workforce, beds, medicines, equipment and products.

“Enhancing community engagement by ensuring effective communication to the public.”

He also said the objective was also to improve laboratory capacity to test by strengthening the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and private laboratory capacity for SARS-CoV-2 testing to meet the requirements of the COVID-19 response and improve coordination between the public and private sectors.

This will include expediting research and the introduction of therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines by institutionalizing mechanisms for COVID-19 related health products regulation and research coordination.

“Since the last release of scientific model results in May 2020, the National COVID Epi Model has been updated to model COVID-19 at a district level, making use of South African hospitalisation data, updated estimates of the reproductive number, and a shift in testing priorities.

“Model projections indicate that while the epidemic is predicted to peak nationally at a similar time to the previously projected optimistic curve (that is mid-August), it does so at a lower level. This means that fewer people were infected in May and June than was previously predicted even under the optimistic scenario.”